Cooke Conversation: 5 Questions with Ann Hollingsworth

annh-edited.jpgWe’re continuing our series of alumni profiles by interviewing Cooke Scholars from across our scholarship programs. We hope to inspire current and future Cooke Scholars by highlighting the incredible range of personalities, ambitions, and accomplishments of this talented group. Today’s conversation features Cooke Scholar Ann Hollingsworth.

What’s a girl like me doing in a place like this? A typical “small-town girl” from Colorado, I always dreamt of traveling the world and learning about new people, places, languages and cultures. I made it my goal to make that dream a reality. In May 2015, I graduated from Wake Forest University with a double-major Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Sociology and Spanish. After studying abroad in Spain my junior year, it was clear that my craving for travel would not be satiated so easily. So, after graduation I looked for every opportunity to explore the world! I ended up in Argentina, where I currently work as a private English tutor in a small city called Laboulaye. My favorite things here include asado, empanadas, mate, fernet, and the ever-so-popular siesta!

1. What does being a Cooke Scholar mean to you?

Being a Cooke Scholar means being free from limits to what I can achieve. I have always had the mindset that most achievements in life are more about dedication and perseverance rather than an innate intelligence or ability. However, to realize any goal one must have the physical, financial, and circumstantial opportunities to do so. Through financial, community, and career support, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation provides those opportunities to their scholars. Being a Cooke Scholar means being a part of a community of high-achieving peers who know what it’s like to have the desire to excel and also the sinking feeling of having the lack of opportunity to do so. We share the knowledge of what it’s like to struggle and to overcome. We support one another in our achievements and our failures. Being a Cooke Scholar means never having to be alone in my educational and career endeavors.


2. Tell us about your most memorable moment as a Young Scholar.

I’ve been asked this question several times over the years and I give the same answer. No moment will be more memorable than when I opened that first big envelope that I received from the Cooke Foundation in October of my 8th grade year. As soon as I read “Congratulations!” I knew my life would never be the same. Dreams I had of going to a great school, learning to speak another language, traveling, and forming a professional career without swimming in debt for the rest of my life; all suddenly became possible. They became concrete goals instead of “What ifs…”


3. What was the best advice given to you as an undergraduate in college?

“Wake Forest is a group effort.” This little piece of gold came from a senior leader in my campus ministry when I entered as a freshman. “I don’t mean that exams are a group effort, and I’m not encouraging you to cheat,” he continued, addressing a group of us freshmen at orientation, “but it’s important to know that you have each other to rely on for support both academically and emotionally.” I thought it was good advice then, and as a graduate now I see even more clearly the immense value of his words. As I progress through my journey as a college graduate and future graduate degree candidate, I will always carry this advice with me. Never be ashamed to seek out support or to ask for help when you need it. Counseling and tutoring centers exist for a reason. Use them, and don’t feel less intelligent, independent, or strong for doing so. This doesn’t just apply to classwork. Step up to the plate and participate in student life. Forming relationships is a part of the college experience and part of forming a support network during college and afterward.


4. Describe a moment you were challenged outside of your comfort zone when pursuing an interest.

As part of pursuing my goal to learn Spanish, I decided to study abroad for a semester in Spain. This experience was definitely one of the highlights of my entire career as a student! At first it was scary. I had only been out of the country twice for short trips, and I had never traveled alone. On top of that, I earned a “C” in my Spanish class the semester before I left for Spain. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to understand anything. I felt like I would never attain my goal of speaking Spanish. I told myself that this was my shot to give it everything I had, and if I still didn’t learn, it wasn’t meant to be. When I came back from Spain, I not only decided to continue studying Spanish, I decided to make it my major instead of a minor! Rising to the challenge of pursing my interest in learning another language has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. If it weren’t for that semester I spent studying new vocabulary and grammar, sweating over pages of medieval Spanish literature, and attempting to decipher the heavy accent of my Spanish Art and Architect professor (who didn’t use any words on his slide presentations, by the way) I would not be living my dream of living and working in another country!


5. Why would you recommend high-achieving 7th graders to apply for the Young Scholars Program?

I would recommend high-achieving 7th graders to apply for the Young Scholars Program because it’s so much more than just a scholarship. The relationships I have formed with fellow scholars and with mentors are invaluable additions to my life. I would recommend that they apply because they have a whole life of opportunities to gain from becoming a Cooke Scholar. The application process may seem long and daunting, but the benefit of being selected greatly compensates for the time spent on the application. On the other hand, if you’re a high-achieving middle-schooler who applies, and who is not selected, the application is a great way to practice for college applications and other scholarship applications, so either way it’s worth it to apply.